Why everyone wants Hygge

HARISH BHAT | Updated on January 12, 2018

Warm and fuzzy : Such moments make up Hygge, now a trend.

The Danish art of cosiness is becoming a global lifestyle trend

My wife returned from a business trip to Copenhagen last month, and she brought along a Danish gift for me. It was a bottle of mulled wine, deliciously fragrant with the aromas of cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my wife, daughter and I nestled together in our sitting room in Mumbai, warmed the mulled wine, and enjoyed it over a couple of long evenings of lazy, cosy conversations about the year gone by. They were delightful evenings, and I think the wine, cheese, conversation and togetherness had a magical and happy effect on all three of us.

The Danish have a word for such warm, cosy moments: Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). This is the Danish art of cosiness which has already become a huge lifestyle trend in Europe. From my own observations, it is also now rapidly becoming a big consumer desire and trend in many parts of urban India. Hygge is a lifestyle defined by making everyday moments with your family and friends more beautiful, meaningful and special, by living cozily, every day.

What it is

Hygge typically involves simple practices, far from the clutter of technology and the fast-paced noises of the modern world. Dinner with friends is hygge. So is warm, fresh bread from bakeries, a cup of hot coffee sipped in the silence of dawn, a simple set of clay diyas lit beautifully in the front verandah. Or grandparents, parents and children, sitting together, and playing their favourite word game.

Perhaps hygge is becoming so large globally because it serves as an effective counterpoint to the digital clutter that is threatening to take over our lives. It helps bring intimacy and meaning into lives that are constantly being lived out on a digitally connected treadmill. Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, has recently published a guide to achieving contentment through hygge (The Little Book of Hygge). In this book, he offers advice on how to create the sense of comfort and togetherness that lead to Hygge. Here are some of his tips: Turn off the mobile phones. Turn down the light. Bring out the candles. Get comfy. Wear cosy, soft clothes. Cuddle up on a sofa with your partner and children. Share comfort food and drink. Cake baked with lots of warm spices, and aromatic mulled wine, are most definitely hygge.

This last bit of advice has been taken seriously by marketers and consumers alike during the recent festive season – including my wife, who bought that bottle of mulled wine. The strong demand for cakes and mulled wine, as well as the use of aromatic spices in homemade gifts and decorations to create the hygge feel, has resulted in the prices of spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla, jumping up significantly. Cardamom prices have almost doubled in India, and vanilla prices have almost tripled in the past two years. Marketers of spices can now rightly reposition their products as “creators of hygge and happiness”.

Business potential

The pursuit of hygge opens up many other marketing opportunities as well. Apparel retailers can position hand-crafted socks, warm flowery blankets and soft garments as sources of perfect cosiness. Bakeries and biscuit manufacturers can consider making “hygge” breads, buns and biscuits infused with spices or stuffed with raisins and nuts. Makers of home furnishings can market warm wooden floor tiles or wall tiles which create the cosy feeling. Chocolate brands can consider how to infuse cosiness into their products.

Many more interesting possibilities exist. Indian marketers can come up with the desi equivalent of hygge, positioning the entire concept most appropriately and appealingly for our families. Hotels and holiday resorts can market hygge sort of holidays, in small havelis on river banks, or warm huts with fireplaces, deep in the Himalayas. Brands of craft beer can consider promoting hygge blends, in specially designed bottles, particularly suited to friends getting together for a relaxed evening. Marketers of diyas, agarbathis and incense are perfectly positioned to move their products from festive or religious settings to an everyday hygge context, thus spurring the frequency of consumption. And of course, in our vast tea-drinking land, brands can consider promoting blends of chai with elaichi and ginger as family drinks for lazy weekend evenings.

Retailers can leverage this trend too, in store designs and settings. They can don the Hygge look – warm, intimate and welcoming. Cafes and restaurants can benefit by offering nooks and private alcoves for intimate family dinners. Not to mention that there is a big market waiting for Indian books which tell us how to pursue the simple pleasures of hygge in our crowded cities, and rediscover happiness. Perhaps a Guru of Hygge can emerge.

Marketers should consider the hygge opportunities in their respective industries and categories. Such creative contemplation is best done, of course, in a warm and cosy atmosphere, lit by the gentle flicker of candle-light.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons Ltd. These are his personal views.

Published on February 09, 2017

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